Ezra Klein points out that today’s Supreme Court “is the direct result of George W. Bush’s contested election. If Al Gore had won the presidency in 2000 and reelection in 2004, then William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor would likely have been replaced by Democrats, and Supreme Court jurisprudence in the years since would be very different.”
“The Court has shown no such deference when it comes to the need for campaign finance regulation or to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and others. The Roberts Court has overturned or limited every campaign finance law it has examined (aside from disclosure laws). It has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. How much deference did Congress get in those cases? None.”
“Well when is Congress wise and entitled to deference? When the Court agrees with Congress’s approach.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split, ruled that “closely held” companies can on religious grounds opt out of a federal health-care law requirement that companies provide contraception coverage for employees, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The court’s five conservatives wrote that private companies, such as Hobby Lobby Stores, can’t be forced to provide contraceptive health services that violate their owner’s religious beliefs. The case was the first challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the Supreme Court since 2012, when the justices upheld most of the health-care overhaul against a constitutional challenge.”
National Journal: “How deeply the court’s decision undermines the contraception mandate will depend largely on how business owners respond… The furthest-reaching implications could come further down the road; the Obama administration and its allies have warned that companies will rely on the ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.”
Wonk Wire: More Obamacare lawsuits poised to follow
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court “limited a president’s power to make recess appointments when the White House and the Senate are controlled by opposite parties, scaling back a presidential authority as old as the republic,” NBC News reports.
“The case arose from a political dispute between President Obama and Senate Republicans, who claimed he had no authority to put three people on the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012 when the Senate was out of town.”
“This is the time of year that the news media roll out a familiar graphic: Nine head shots of Supreme Court justices, arrayed from most liberal to most conservative,” the New York Times reports.
“In spacing the head shots at equal intervals, the graphics suggest a steady procession from left to right. But the reality is a series of clusters, a few loners and several telling gaps.”
“In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest,” the New York Times reports.
“While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.”
“All but one of the nine high court justices earned teaching income or book royalties in 2013, hauling in a quarter of a million dollars for their work shaping young legal minds in the classroom or through the written word,” the Center for Public Integrity found.
“Top earner Justice Antonin Scalia raked in more than $100,000 in book royalties for his 2012 tome Reading Law: Interpretation of Legal Texts and teaching wages from Southern Methodist University, Duke University, Tufts University and Pennsylvania State University… Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not report any outside income in 2013, despite the recent success of her memoir, My Beloved World, for which she received $1.9 million in advances from her publisher Knopf Doubleday in 2012.”
A new study finds that judges with daughters “are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than ones with only sons. The effect… is most pronounced among male judges appointed by Republican presidents, like Chief Justice Rehnquist,” the New York Times reports.
“The new study considered some 2,500 votes by 224 federal appeals court judges. ‘Having at least one daughter… corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction.’ Additional daughters do not seem to matter. But the effect of having a daughter is even larger when you limit the comparison to judges with only one child.”
“The Obama administration is facing a liberal revolt in the Senate over two high-priority judicial nominations, potentially jeopardizing its push to shape the federal judiciary in advance of the midterm congressional election,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The disputes, which involve hot-button issues including abortion, the Confederate flag and drones, could come to a head as early as Tuesday.”
A new Democracy Corps poll “reveals that the Supreme Court has very lackluster job performance ratings and is viewed as overly political by Americans, who support a wide range of reforms for our nation’s highest court. Perhaps most remarkably, even in a time of intense political polarization there is broad cross-partisan consensus on these issues.”
The Supreme Court ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month,” the New York Times reports.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom,” adding that “it’s almost to the point saying this man doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black,” The Week reports.
Thompson explained that every decision Thomas has signed on to at the court has “been adverse to the minority community, and the people I represent have a real issue with an African American not being sensible to those issues.”
“With the Supreme Court’s term winding down and Republicans’ midterm election prospects on the rise, some liberal legal advocates want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire this summer. That way, President Obama can appoint a like-minded successor while the Senate is still under Democratic control,” Roll Call reports.
“A splintered Supreme Court voted 6-2 that states may end racial preferences without violating the U.S. Constitution,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The case came from Michigan, which in 2006 passed a voter initiative ending racial preferences. A federal appeals court had struck down the measure, finding that it served to disadvantage minorities in the political process.”
“Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a plurality, said that the case wasn’t about resolving the debate over affirmative action, but rather ‘who may resolve it.’ He wrote the Constitution doesn’t forbid voters from ending the practice, which was instituted by officials at the University of Michigan and other state agencies.”
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “sought his advice on when she should retire, although he declined to weigh in on the matter publicly,” the Huffington Post reports.
Said Stevens: “I’d say she doesn’t need my advice, she really doesn’t. She did ask my advice.”
“Perhaps you should revolt.”
— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted by the Knoxville News Sentinel, to a law school student who questioned the constitutionality of the federal income tax.
David Hawkings: “The Supreme Court has made pretty clear that putting your money where your mouth is deserves broad protection as a form of free political speech. The justices are about to consider whether outright lying in a campaign deserves a similar First Amendment shield.”
“The court’s recent decisions easing the flow of generous campaign contributions already shifted the electoral landscape. If the court finds that even the most patently outrageous statements about candidates may not be barred by law, those two decisions combined could expand the rhetorical battlefield of the midterm elections and raise the attack ad volume as never before.”
Jonathan Chait: “It may seem implausible that Republicans would simply refuse to allow Obama to appoint any justice to such a vacancy. That is only because things that haven’t happened before are hard to imagine. But such a confrontation is not only a logical outcome but the most logical outcome. Voting to flip the Supreme Court would be, if not a political death warrant for a Republican Senator, then certainly taking one’s political life into one’s own hands. Politicians do not like political death warrants — certainly not for the benefit of the opposing party’s agenda.”
“The modern pattern in American politics is that tactics that are legally available, but never used for reasons of custom, eventually become used. The modern pattern is also that the Republican Party, which is the most ideologically cohesive and disciplined party, leads the way.”